Category Archives: so this one time …

“Coffee black and egg white/Pull me out from inside/I am ready/I am ready/I am ready/I am fine.” — Counting Crows

On Monday, I received an e-mail from a dear, old friend.  I smiled when I saw her name in my inbox.

Once upon a time, she held my heart in her hands.  Such passion!

hi bb,
i had a horrible nightmare… just woke up…
i have a question.. a bit…
are u hiv positive?
i had the test just before meeting you… and by then i didn’t have it…
did you?
talk soon bb!

uhhhhhh … Come again?

Very strange days.  Everything suddenly is different.  Today is another of those days.  Today I was tested.

Somebody I held deep affection for seemed to be hiv positive.  Such despair.  It’s not a death sentence anymore, but it certainly doesn’t simplify things. She is beautiful, still.  Still deep inside too.

And me, then.  Is it possible?  It can’t be possible.

I responded to her message, and walked away to brush my teeth.

Wait.  Turn around.  Walk back.  What?  Hiv?  No.  What?  Awwww fuck.

I didn’t think I was positive.  I’m not positive.  But there it was, all of a sudden, like a piano being lifted into a third story window.  Just … hanging there.

I was never really worried.   I guess I was a bit worried.  It just didn’t seem possible.

What it does is it forces a decision: a) take intense, expensive, miserable-side-effecty drugs for the rest of my life or b) die a horrible, wasting death from AIDS.  Easy decision right?  Maybe for you.

Now the sun is shining.  A beautiful person with tattoos all over <…>’s arms stabbed me in the pinky finger and stole my blood, as we chatted casually about anal fluids and broken condoms.  Negative is a beautiful word.

Everything is suddenly different.  Little Tommy is playing his first chords on the piano, which is now resting peacefully between an old, oaken bookshelf and a wide window, where the summer sun is shining on young tree-tops, kissing them a vibrant green.

The flowers are in bloom.  Negative is a beautiful word.

[it wasn’t her word, though.  my beautiful girl.  life can be so cruel.]


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“Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty” — Socrates

Last night around 1:00am, I found myself loitering in front of some place called the Tattoo – Rock Parlour on Queen West.

Don’t ask.

I was distracting myself, as I often do, by making premature, and often grossly inaccurate judgments of the many people who wandered through my frame of vision.

Lots of people will tell you that they don’t judge.  Well I do.  I also judge people who say they don’t judge.  I judge them as being “untruthful,” perhaps most of all to themselves.

We judge in others those things we ourselves feel most guilty of.

At least I don’t pretend I don’t judge though.  Judgment is how we know that the present environment is safe, or sexual, or whether we can expect to eat or go to sleep.  Judging people, that is, drawing conclusions based on incomplete information, is unconsciously happening pretty much constantly.  Sorry.

The “Tattoo” in Tattoo Rock Parlour, is a little Tattoo shop, with a wide, well-lit window, flashing directly to face the lined-up semi-drunks, and the buzzing street beyond.  In the window is a woman wrapped in white, but for a black bra, and the bodily-scars of past visits to the artists’ chair.  I saw her, from across the street, and I wondered, “what would compel a person to display themselves as such?”

Not that there’s anything wrong with it.  Really, it’s beautiful.  But not everyone would voluntarily sit, lit in display on such a stage.  So what kind person does such a thing?   And so I judged.  Etc. Etc.

I met a woman, standing on the street.  I had met her before, so to speak.  “Can you spare some change?”  That was her sales pitch, repeated…  I had heard it many times.  The insanity of urban life made us neighbors, and our chance paths crossed often.  She bounced from pedestrian to pedestrian, like a ball in a secret game of soccer that nobody told her she was playing.  I guess she wasn’t playing.

Bouncing from one to another, I saw that soon her path would bring her to me.  She is older, perhaps in her 50’s.  Her fading hair hangs limply around a face that could use some color.  Her gait is stunted, as old shoes drag on the sidewalk, and dirty clothes hang on limp shoulders.  “Help me.”  That’s the judgment I made.

I see her first and catch her eyes: “I’m sorry, I can’t spare any change.” I say with a smile.  She looks at me, perplexed at first.  She who exists in the neglected and ignored corners of our well swept society is suddenly seen.  I continue to smile, and looking at her, see quickly that she understands a great deal more than meets the eye.  Her face breaks into a smile befitting the warmth of a grandmother, and she shrugs her shoulders slightly, with a squint, as if to say “great secret, huh?,” before meandering on.

Like I said, I see her often, preying on the fish in the stream as they flow through a bottleneck at a busy street-corner.  I also sometimes see her in front of the community housing in which she lives.   Leaning back in a comfortable chair, under a tree that seems about ready for puberty, she smokes a cigarette with a cup of coffee in her hand.  It’s late afternoon, and the rays of the eventually setting sun fall fully on her face.  Though I steal only a glance in passing, it seems almost as though the light reflected is greater, or perhaps grander than it was when it struck her skin.

It is the unmistakable glow of contentment, hiding here in the unlikeliest corner.  She is judged, this woman.  So it goes, in a life where pride is surrendered.  They look at her saying “help me,” and many, I’m sure, read little more than “less valuable than me.”  I know that I have encountered many who lived by mercy and kindness in my life and have frequently looked down upon them as I stepped by.

Yet, in her quiet moments, she knows contentment.  Contentment, the elusive prey sought by all.  I believe it eludes most of us.  We have happy moments, sure, but in the silence, we are rarely content.  There is always something to need or want, or that soon needs to be done.  Or perhaps it is something past that didn’t go right, or a wish for how it might have.  If past and future lie silent, the tricks in the shadows plant seeds of worry, and their vines creep slowly, unnoticed until that have already tied us in knots.

No, contentment is tricky to find, and trickier to hold onto.  There it was though, glowing outwards from her soul.

Perhaps she holds the greatest secret of all.  If she did, would you listen?

Peace and love

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“Oh you can tell by the way I use my walk I’m a woman’s man, no time for talk”

Today I was standing in line at a Hallmark, waiting to buy 72 little star-shaped stickers.  I was trying to figure out what to do with 18 little red stars, 18 little blue stars, and 18 little silver stars, as I really only wanted the gold ones, when Captain Collar-pop behind the counter started putting on a little show.

From the back (and backs can be deceiving), the customer in front of me appeared to be a very attractive woman; each piece set just-so to make each feature look a little better than nature had intended.  I suppose it was only natural, then, that Captain Collar-pop gesticulate wildly – so goes the age-old attempt by man to convince woman that he is the ideal mate.  In his case, this took the form of the classic ‘no-look-cash-drawer-close,’ a move he executed with an air of faux-uninterested flourish that would have driven an adolescent female peacock into a fit of hysterics.

Alas, foolhardy in his youth, our fair Captain failed to account for one crucial detail.  With so many pieces of his flailing body to keep in check, so many intricate steps of flailation to carry out in precise sequence, he can hardly be blamed for not noticing something so mundane.

You see, held eternally in wait on top of that cash register is a single pencil.  It is an old pencil, surviving through many hours of idle tapping by minimum-wage clerks staring out at an empty store.  So much comfort it has brought, and so many solutions, always there at hand’s reach in a pinch.  What irony that such a stalwart support should betray our charming hero at this most delicate of moments.

You see, engaged as he was in his pre-drawer-close-wind-up, he didn’t realize that a subtle vibration had set the pencil to roll, and rolling it was now, down into the path of the closing drawer.  I wanted to warn him.  I tried, but the words caught in my throat.  The image is burned, now, into my mind.

There was Captain Collar-pop, gazing intently into the distance, an aura of mystery and danger dripping from his every feature.  He didn’t see it coming.  He couldn’t see it coming.  “What’s that in the distance?” his countenance asked.  “Is it a bird maybe?  Such beautiful plumage?”  Thu-dunk.

The unwatched drawer slid silently towards a conclusion that was now all but inevitable.  The pencil, rolling and tumbling, bounced like a roulette ball.  Oh if only it would bounce astray, then, just maybe, our hero might carry the day.  Captain Collar-pop will have his day, I am sure of it.  Such flourish can only come to good in time.  Today, though, the pencil didn’t bounce free.  No, with the trademark stubbornness of a pencil, it buried its half-chewed eraser deep among the accumulated nickles.  Sliding now, with the closing drawer, its dull point wrote a single final line upon the air itself, a farewell note to foolish hope.  Impact, now, as errant pencil prevents the closing of the drawer.  Impact, now, as rocking cash-register bumps ‘point-of-sale-kinck-knack-display-boxes’ filled with assorted humorous magnets, inspirational bookmarks and books made for people with very small hands.  Impact, now, as boxes fall to the floor.

I never saw the face of the woman ahead of me in line.  I saw only his as he tried to play it cool.  Tried to laugh it off.  “What’s that in the distance?,”  his body asked.   I watched his face as he watched her walk away.  Oh the things that could have been.  So many shattered dreams.  So many little red, blue and silver star-stickers with nothing to stick them on.

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